Article from the Grange Parish Book suggested for reading this week (week 22)
Past Times Recalled
This week's (week 22) article from the Grange Book features two stories written by Tom Buckley as well as information about the storyteller's life. Tom (1917-2004) was a native of Caherguillamore, and he eventually settled in Dublin until his death.
Tom was born and reared in Caherguillamore. The family home was the two-story farmhouse that became the home of the Murnane family, across the road from the vacant building that was once the home of “Mikey” Hogan. Tom’s daughter, Annette Buckley, provided the book committee with a note on her father’s life - the detail is contained in the book article.
A natural storyteller, Tom was a sharp observer of life and human behaviour and had an eye for detail which he was able to recall with accuracy. He wrote a number of published articles, mostly about his recollections from times well past. Two of his pieces, reproduced in the Grange Book, recall characters and ways of living from his childhood.
Tom's writing was characterised by a gifted storytelling technique and the ability to bring subject characters and settings to life with both compassion and humour. Consequently, his stories are fascinating and entertaining.
Tom's two stories which were reproduced in the Grange Book are titled A Life of Great Loneliness and The Fair of Bruff. Both stories were about events during his childhood years in Caherguillamore. The former was about the sad life of a likeable homeless man who was known in the Caherguillamore locality and beyond. The latter was about preparing for and travelling to the fair, the excitement of the hustle and bustle of the fair and, of course, the return home late in the day.
The following are extracts from Tom's stories:
"He was gnarled and bent like the bushes on the roadside. He was poorly clad. He never had a Sunday suit. His education was sparse. His university, the bitter, bitter existence that was his fate. He never had any money, not even a penny. He didn’t seem to need it. Yet he was cheerful, and when I look back on my childhood days, he was one of my unforgettable characters."
"He seemed ageless, not young, but again not very old. He had a tramp-like existence except that we looked on him as one of our own, a neighbour. He seldom left his ‘beat’, stretching about two miles from Glenogra Bridge near Fedamore to the Cross of Grange, except when he went to Mass or made a call to one or two of ‘his’ houses outside his Pale."
"He never asked for permission to stay in anybody’s hay shed; he would be refused. People were always afraid that he would be found dead from the cold or injured from forks or deadly hay knives or again falling off high benches of hay. But somehow he survived the forks and the cruel cold of the long friendless winters and would be seen at daybreak on the roadside waiting for the first sign of life - chimney smoke. An indication that breakfast was at hand. The kettle was on, 'Ere a drop left in the pot missus' would be his plea."
"You were all of nine years when you convinced yourself that you were big enough to help your father and Johnny drive cattle to the fair of Bruff in the morning. You told her [mother] that there were lads half your age going. Somehow your enthusiasm prevailed. What excitement and what ecstasy on getting permission. Johnny prepared a shortened ash plant for you. No self-respecting male would face the 18th October fair without a good ash plant – the staff of the cattleman."
"The cattle are herded into a vantage spot in front of Collins’s pub. But you had to be watchful. The old cows were only waiting for the chance to break away home. Day began to break as latecomers arrived - increasing the pushing and shoving. Steam poured from the extended nostrils of excited animals. Steam poured too from the extended nostrils of fat cattle buyers as they emerged from Collins’s pub. It was a weird and wonderful sight as the outline of the church spire appeared through the artificial fog in the grey light of dawn. You see more neighbours. You saw some bigger school pals who looked superior, being veterans of many a fair."
"Quite a crowd has now collected, and the tradition of bargaining goes on – pushing, shouting, cursing and more cursing until your ears went red. You thought that a big row was starting. But you learn it is only a ritual of coming to a deal. The time honoured ceremony is carried on – spitting on palms, splitting the difference, aspersions on the sanity of the seller for expecting such an outrageous price. But the odds are stacked against the seller. He is only a novice compared to the buyer and his pals who are at a fair every other morning."
There is much, much more in the full stories.
Next Week (week 23) we will suggest another book article for reading.
Kind Regards to All.